Moving Forward by Slowing Down: Considering Diverse Perspectives on Drug Decriminalization and LegalizationExport this event to calendar

Tuesday, June 7, 2022 — 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM EDT

Registration for the lecture is now closed. We look forward to seeing registrants at the event.

If you have questions or need to cancel your registration, please contact Ashley King.

Health policies demand solid empirical evidence from high-quality research, thoughtful and ongoing discussion, knowledge sharing, and consideration of diverse perspectives.

The need to hear a range of expert perspectives on illicit substance use and/or addiction, e.g., public supply of addictive drugs (PSAD; also known as ‘safe supply’), decriminalization, or legalization, is key to developing policies that can address their social, health, and economic consequences. As major drug law policy changes are being considered and implemented in Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere, policy makers, health-care professionals and politicians need access to all relevant research.

This panel was created to allow for the full and transparent consideration of challenges, possible unintended consequences and concerns as we consider drug policy reforms. Policies must be evidence-based and effective, and they must be in the best interests of those who continue to suffer from the ravages of drug addiction.

This event will showcase the learnings from the Portuguese National Strategy, which involved a massive shift from a focus on law enforcement to prioritizing addiction treatment and prevention. Immediately following this discussion, several Canadian addictions researchers and clinicians will share their research and experiences. We hope to provide a more complex and nuanced view of what options of decriminalization, medicalization and legalization of substances might look like in a North American context.


Dr. João Goulão

Director-General, General-Directorate for Intervention on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies, Ministry of Health, Portugal

Dr. Goulao.Dr. João Goulão is the Director-General of The General-Directorate for Intervention on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies (SICAD), a body under the Ministry of Health in Portugal. SICAD’s main responsibility is to promote the reduction of the use of licit and illicit substances and the decrease of addictions across Portugal. SICAD coordinates treatment, reintegration and prevention strategies across different state institutions and NGOs, supports harm reduction mechanisms and collects the latest information and statistical data for annual submission at the Portuguese Parliament and to the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

Dr. Goulão was originally a family doctor and has become the “face” of Portugal’s drug policy reform movement. He was part of the expert panel that developed the initial recommendations for the 1999 Strategy, which included the decriminalization of drugs. He graduated from the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Medicine in 1978, and became a general practitioner in the Algarve region in 1983. He joined the Taipas Centre in Lisbon for training, when it was established in 1987 by the Portuguese Ministry of Health for the treatment, recovery and social reintegration of drug addicts. In 1997, he became the national director of the network of drug treatment centres in Portugal. He is currently the Portuguese representative in the Management Board of EMCDDA, also based in Lisbon, which he chaired from 2010 to 2015.


Time Session
1:00 p.m.


Speaker: Elder Myeengun Henry, Chippewas of the Thames First Nation

1:05 p.m.


Speaker: Lili Liu, Dean, Faculty of Health, University of Waterloo

1:10 p.m.

KEYNOTE Moving Forward by Slowing Down: Considering Diverse Perspectives on Drug Decriminalization and Legalization

Moderator: David Hammond

Presenter: Dr. João Goulão, Director-General of The General-Directorate for Intervention on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies

Question and answer period to follow. Please submit questions for Dr. João Goulão in advance on your registration.

2:00 p.m.


Moderator: André Picard


Dr. Julian M. Somers
Social reintegration versus deaths of despair

Dr. Launette Rieb
Controversial issues surrounding Public Supply of Addictive Drugs (PSAD) and decriminalization of drugs in Canada

Dr. Vincent Lam
Hidden harms of the Public Supply of Addictive Drugs (PSAD): Cases from a community addictions medicine clinic

"LE", Representative with lived experience
How safe supply programs may have unintended consequences: Personal experience and observations

Question and answer period to follow. Please submit questions for speakers in advance on your registration.


Dr. Julian M. Somers.

Dr. Julian M. Somers, PhD

Dr. Julian Somers is a clinical psychologist and specialist in addiction since 1987. His body of research includes theoretical, clinical, and empirical advances addressing harm reduction and recovery from addiction among youth and adults. He has led numerous large studies investigating ways of helping people who experience harmful addictions, mental illness, homelessness, and involvement with corrections. Dr. Somers is a clinical practitioner, a Distinguished SFU Professor, and Director of the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction (CARMHA).

Back to top

Dr. Launette Rieb.

Dr. Launette Marie Rieb, MD

Dr. Rieb is a family physician, addiction medicine specialist, researcher, and clinical associate professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC). She was the co-creator and initial physician director of BC’s first Addiction Medicine Fellowship, and contributed to the formation of BC’s first Pain Medicine Fellowship. She has co-chaired committees that created provincial and national clinical guidelines on perinatal substance use, and on opioid use disorder among older adults. She serves clinical populations of workers with concurrent pain, addiction and mental health issues through ActumHealth and St. Paul's Hospital. Dr. Rieb is the recipient of a UBC Post Graduate Teaching Award and the BC College of Family Physicians Exceptional Teacher Honor.

Dr. Vincent Lam.

Dr. Vincent Lam, MD

Dr. Vincent Lam completed his MD in 1999 at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, and completed a residency in Family Medicine at the University of Toronto in 2001. He has practiced emergency medicine, and addictions medicine. Dr. Lam became the medical director of Coderix Medical Clinic, an addictions medicine clinic, in 2016. He is a faculty member at the University of Toronto, and was an executive editor and co-author of "Opioid Agonist Therapy: a Prescriber's Guide to Treatment", a textbook published in 2022. Dr. Lam is also a noted author, and a frequent contributor to The Globe and Mail.

Back to top

Silhoutte of young person.


Representative with lived experience

"LE", a twenty-four year old male from Ontario will share some personal experiences and observations about how safe supply programs may have unintended consequences, especially for young people.

Back to top


Moderators and facilitators

Andre Picard.

André Picard

Award-winning national health writer

André Picard is one of Canada’s top health and public policy observers and commentators. He has been a part of The Globe and Mail team since 1987, where he is a health reporter and columnist. He is also the author of five bestselling books. Picard is an eight-time nominee for the National Newspaper Awards, Canada’s top journalism prize, and past winner of the prestigious Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service Journalism.

Back to top

Myeengun Henry

Elder Myeengun Henry

Chippewas of the Thames First Nation

Elder Myeengun Henry is the Indigenous Knowledge Keeper in the Faculty of Health, University of Waterloo. He is a former Chief of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation. He is the writer of an Indigenous studies course called “A First Nations Experience” and he practices Indigenous ceremonies and language. He is an Indigenous advisor at the Law Society of Ontario, serves as an elder/teacher at McMaster University and Mohawk College and is an Indigenous advisor to the Ontario Provincial Police and at the Waterloo Crime Prevention Council. He works hard to address issues in the current climate crisis, organizes rallys and meetings and is the host of the NISH-VIBES radio show on CJIQ-FM. He is building a sustainable off-the-grid house and a number of tiny houses on his reserve.

Back to top

David Hammond.

David Hammond, PhD

David Hammond is a professor in the School of Public Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo. Professor Hammond’s research examines the population-level impact of substance use policies, including the areas of tobacco and cannabis. Professor Hammond works closely with regulators around the world and has served as an advisor for the World Health Organization. Professor Hammond also serves as an Expert Witness in court cases, primarily on behalf of governments defending health regulations from legal challenges by the food, tobacco, and cannabis industries. Professor Hammond’s research has been recognized by awards from CIHR, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Medical Association, the Royal Statistical Society of Canada, and the World Health Organization.

Back to top


This event is supported in full by Heterodox Academy. The ability for HxA to provide Grants for HxCommunities events and other activities are made possible in full through the support of the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed at these events (or through such activities) are those of the individual speakers and presenters of such events/activities and do not necessarily reflect the views of Heterodox Academy and/or the John Templeton Foundation.

Free - Registration required

  1. 2023 (2)
    1. March (2)
  2. 2022 (3)
    1. October (1)
    2. June (2)
  3. 2021 (11)
  4. 2020 (9)
  5. 2019 (7)
  6. 2018 (1)
  7. 2017 (2)
  8. 2014 (2)
  9. 2013 (1)
  10. 2012 (1)